13 February, 2017  |   Comment

On Valentine’s Eve

Little kids make the best Valentines

Romance is such a new construction. It was just a few hundred years ago that women were just purchased and traded out on the open market. This makes the history of Valentine’s day both fresh and confusing.

Valentine's arrow to the heartHistorians still aren’t quite sure why Valentine’s day is related to St. Valentine.
Was it that he fell in love with his jailer’s daughter?
Was it that he married lovers?
We don’t quite know.

What we do know is that some etymologists think Valentine’s day is just a confusion of consonants. Back when the letters v and g were considered interchangeable, the Norman word “galantin” which meant “a lover of women,” was at one time written and pronounced valantan AND valentin.

We love our romance, we can’t be bothered to keep our consonants straight.
Sounds pretty human.

All of that said, my favorite part of Valentine’s day are all the superstitions.

You can't be too sure what a kid's Valentine will include

Graveyard Visions
Back in the 1600s, a girl, could conjure up a vision of her future spouse. All she had to do was go to the graveyard on St. Valentine’s Eve at midnight.

There, she would sing a song and run around the church twelve times.
Boom. Vision of her future husband bestowed.

Stay at Home Version
If she didn’t want to leave her house, she could do what this lady did back in 1754:

“Last Friday was St. Valentine’s Day, and the night before I got five bay leaves and pinned four on the corners of my pillow and the fifth to the middle; and then if I dreamt of my sweetheart, Betty said we should be married before the year was out.

But to make it more sure I boiled an egg hard and took out the yolk and filled it with salt; and when I went to bed ate it shell and all, without speaking or drinking after it.

We also wrote our lovers; names on bits of paper, and rolled them up in clay and put them into water; and the first that rose up was to be our Valentine.

Would you think it? Mr. Blossom was my man. I lay abed and shut my eyes all the morning, till he came to our house, for I would not have seen another man before him for all the world.”

Got that?

All you have to do is pin a few bay leaves to your pillow corners, boil an egg, take out the yolk without breaking the shell too much, fill the hole with salt and eat the whole thing without water.

Vision granted.
Humans, we are weird.

Tomorrow, we’ll probably make some heart shaped bacon, cut up some heart shaped strawberries and deliver Valentines to the people we love the most.

Hope your Valentine’s day is chock-full of love.

7 February, 2017  |   Comment

How to write a love poem, a template

It is Valentine’s Day soon.
I have an idea for you.
Write a special person a love poem.

This is my favorite guy smoking a cigar

Question for you: Why would you write a love poem?

I mean, really, the cons:
Love poems have a risk of being cheesy,
love poems demonstrate your creativity
love poems require vulnerability

Those cons look pretty scary, don’t they?
(Thankfully, the pros outweigh the cons.)

Way out-weighing, from the pros:
Love poems don’t cost a lot of money,
love poems demonstrate your creativity,
love poems make people feel really special.

My method for writing a love poem uses a template.
This template is based on remembering how the person makes you feel in three parts of your body.

You know how therapists often say that trauma can be held in the body? Like in Sherlock, how Watson has that limp? Or how different injuries can be healed by working through the feelings instead of just treating the body?

I believe that our bodies don’t only hold trauma, they also hold warmth, gratitude and loving feelings. This body memory is key to writing a great love poem.

For this exercise, we’re going into
our Brain,
our Heart and
our Loins
(ahem).

Get a piece of paper you don’t mind messing up, and a favorite pen. We need to get into idea-generating mode. Are you there? Do you have your paper and your pen?

Let’s get started!

Thinking with your brain is the easiest first place to start. We’re starting by generating nouns, verbs and adjectives that describe all the logical things that you love about your special person.

It might be something kind they do for you, it might be physical actions, it might be the look on their face when they’re enjoying something you do for them. For caretakers, it might have to do with how they tuck someone in for the night or the tenderness they show.

Write 5 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs related to the very logical, matter-of-fact, funny or reasonable reasons you love your person.

  

Thinking with your heart requires a bit more focus.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath, pulling that air deep into your heart. Thinking with your heart requires closed eyes and several minutes of quiet.

When you think with your heart, you remember the warm feeling in your chest you felt when you decided that this person was the person for you. Heart feelings tend to focus on gratitude, on warmth, on the choice to do the kind thing.

When you’ve been partnered for a long time, it can take a few more breaths to bubble up the heart feelings. This isn’t because you don’t love them, but because I think that thanks to all the moving parts in this modern life, loving with our hearts is often replaced by loving with our heads.

Now it’s time to write down 5 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs that burst forth from your heart when you feel your person, right there in your chest.

  

Yeah, I said it. Your loins.

Now, of course if you’re writing a love poem to a platonic friend or someone you don’t have those kind of feelings for, you can skip this one. But if you’re writing a love poem to your Big Heavy, rustle up some loin feelings.

The trouble with loin feelings is that they’ve been sneakily co-opted by media that don’t have our true loin feelings at heart (see: romance novels and nudie movie dialogue).

That’s okay! We’re in idea-generating mode here, so we can write down all the throbbing, pulsating, glistening adjectives, nouns and verbs that come up from down there and refine in a minute.

Ready? Write down 5 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs related to the private, sneaky, sexy times that make the corners of your mouth twist up.

  

Now, take your paper and circle your top 3 nouns, adjectives and verbs from your Brain, Heart and Loins. Now write them down fresh on another piece of paper.

Cut that paper into pieces so you can move those pieces around.

This is what mine looked like:

Take these words,
move them around,
group them together and
remove the ones that don’t feel relevant.

Start to think through a narrative.

Now that you have your few – it could include all 12 or just a few – take out a fresh piece of paper again and make these words make sense.

Here’s what mine turned into:

We mean to watch Netflix
until whispers lead us to
a heated tangle.
The dishes can wait.

I think he’ll love it.

If you’re stuck trying to figure out how to write a love poem, let this quick little template help you out. It won’t be cheesy as long as you stick to the truth. You know, the truth about the real reason, you’re celebrating this love we’re lucky to have.

Happy love poem making!

11 February, 2012  |   Comment

I’ve liked Valentines day for a long, long time

Painting our Valentines

Oh look, I’ve already written some little ditties to share with you for your Valentine’s Day preparation! Way to go, past me.

10 February, 2012  |   3 Comments

Helen Jane’s Pancake Recipe

Each Valentine’s day, we have a special breakfast.

Pancakes

This has been a tradition from the early days of our marriage, and now that we have children, it seems to be the most practical solution.

We’ll exchange cards and compliments, but for the most part, it’s all about a luxurious breakfast filled with treats.

Treats like strawberry juice.

Cheers!

Treats like pancakes.

Heart-Shaped Pancakes

These are solid pancakes.
I know, I make them enough.

They’re my best and favorite pancake recipe. Not gluten free, vegan, dairy-free or particularly healthy, they are the tastiest, fluffiest, tangiest pancakes I’ve had the pleasure of preparing.

Here’s the thing about pancakes. Making them makes me feel better because I remember this rule every time I make them.

No one’s good right away.

This rule is driven home to me only because the first pancake never works. Ever.

The oil is all weird, the pancake gets too brown or underdone.
Really, the first pancake is a grody old trial pancake.

And that’s totally okay.

You don’t get judged for screwing up your first pancake, it’s expected.
And you’re still worthy of love.
Valentines day pancakes are my favorite.
Just like you.

Helen Jane’s Pancake Recipe

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups self rising flour (regular flour is also okay, you just won’t get the extra BOOST of boostery.)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole milk (plus or minus a little, depending on your desired batter thickness)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions
Before you start stirring, turn a medium sized sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add a tablespoon or two of oil to the pan.

Submerged

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together. I use a whisk.

In a small bowl, whisk the two eggs together. Add the beaten eggs to the dry ingredients along with the one cup of buttermilk. Stir until barely combined (roughly 10 turns around the bowl with a big spoon).

Add the second cup of whole milk. Stir for 10 more turns.
Add the melted butter, stir a few more takes.

Take either a 1/4 cup or a 1/2 cup sized scoop of batter out of the bowl to make your pancakes. I like making them a little smaller so we can have more of them.

When pouring pancakes into the bowl, make the pancakes into a heart shape to show the people you love that you’re willing to do a little extra (for only free dollars!).

When the pancake begins to show bubbles on the top, it’s time to flip the pancake over.

Wait until the newly pan-side of the pancake is smooth and tan and then put on a plate in the microwave until you’re all done using up the batter.

Serve with butter and real maple syrup and strawberries and whipped cream.
If you can, procure your maple syrup from my brother Charlie, who makes his own maple syrup.
(Isn’t that amazing?)

Tablehearts

Pancake freely!

14 February, 2011  |   7 Comments

Strawberry Hearts

I do this every time I cut strawberries but thought it particularly appropriate for Valentine’s day.

Get a strawberry.

Cut the strawberry at a 45° angle from the top right towards the middle.

Remove the knife and cut it at the opposite 45% degree angle toward the strawberry’s middle.

Now your strawberry looks like this from the top.

And this from the side.

Now cut the strawberry in half lengthwise.

And there you have it, two heart shaped strawberry pieces.

Much love to you and yours this Valentine’s day!